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"Too often we are so preoccupied with the destination, we forget the journey."
~ Unknown

In all the years we've been to Leadville neither of us has ever hiked all the way up to Timberline Lake. One time I walked up maybe half a mile beyond the Colorado Trail, which is also part of the LT100 run course, but I didn't continue far enough to see the lake.

Iím glad I went farther today and Iím sorry I havenít gone up there sooner!

Timberline is a beautiful lake and bigger than I expected from looking at maps.

The trail is very rocky in some places but I donít mind that so much since Iím not running any more. At least I could see these rocks; I couldnít see some of them on the overgrown Willis Lake Trail last week. 


There is more than one Timberline Lake in Colorado. This is the one west of Leadville in the San Isabel National Forest.

The trailhead for Timberline Lake is also the break point between Segments 9 and 10 on the Colorado Trail. Access to the parking lot is off the road that circles Turquoise Lake (FR 105) about a mile from the western end of the lake. Total distance to the trailhead from downtown Leadville is 10-12 miles, depending on the route taken.

Heading west on FR 105 on the south side of Turquoise Lake

The LT100 course goes right through this small parking lot both outbound and inbound. It follows CT Segment 10 for a couple miles to Hagerman Rd., then splits off from it. I've been on that trail numerous times since 1998.

Today I followed the CT for only about a quarter mile. I crossed the Lake Fork bridge just SW of the parking area,

then headed up the wide trail to an intersection with two large metal X's:

At this juncture the CT goes left (south) and the trail to Timberline Lake continues straight (west) for about two miles to a scenic basin with the lake.

Just up the trail a hundred yards from the intersection with the Colorado Trail, the Timberline Lake Trail enters the Holy Cross Wilderness Area. I filled out a permit and continued up.


The elevation at the trailhead is about 10,000 feet and the lake is at 11,000 feet.

The first 1ľ mile rises very gently, only about 500 feet. The last ĺ mile is steeper Ė another 500 feet. Itís still a pretty easy grade, comparatively.



This is a great trail for dogs, with plenty of water to drink.

I mostly followed Lake Fork, the creek that drains into/out of the lake and down into Turquoise Lake, crossing over it and a couple feeder creeks. I crossed on rocks going up but just walked through water three times on the way back to clean my shoes.



Despite the dog leash rule in the wilderness area, Cody was off-leash most of the time and so were three of the other five dogs I saw.  

There were lots of flowers blooming, pretty boulders and smaller rocks, and distant views of some snow on the mountains south and west of the lake:



The trail is partly shaded but also goes through several open areas:


Near the top of a rocky climb I was surprised to suddenly find myself in the basin with the lake.


It is about two miles to the SE end of the lake and another ĺ mile to the far end on the south side of the lake.

When I first got up to the lake I didn't know there was a trail on the south side. I crossed the outlet and tried to hike around the NE side of the lake but got only about ľ mile before turning around because of all the boggy areas and boulders:




Then I hiked on the SW side to the far end and up the inlet a little ways.

The trail on this side of the lake is easier to follow along the shoreline and through the forest, although there was some deadfall to climb over. I chose to climb up on a couple of rock formations to access some different views:


There are many scenic viewpoints on this side of the lake:


At the far NW end of the lake you can tell where the water level was higher earlier in the year when there was more snowmelt.

Now that part is covered with grass and flowers:



This is a very clear, scenic lake. I loved it and so did Cody. He got into the water to drink and chase sticks several times:

I hiked 6ľ + miles and took 2:54 hours doing it. That included taking lots of photos, playing in the water, and stopping for a snack on a sunny rock outcropping over the lake.

Center of photo:  a woman sits on a rock, reading.

I saw several other people while I was up at the lake and on the way back down. I imagine this trail would be busier on a weekend.

I descended to the trailhead more quickly because 1) the views weren't as interesting that direction, 2) I took 90% of the photos going up, and 3) it was downhill! Here's one shot going down:

I highly recommend checking out this trail when you're in the Leadville area. It's fairly short, a relatively easy grade, and at a lower elevation than some other alpine lakes in the San Isabel National Forest. 

Next entryMt. Elbert summit hike

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the Ultra Lab

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© 2011 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil